In his book A New Earth, Eckhart Tolle describes the Pain Body as a “psychic parasite,” like an alien being, that possesses you and causes you to be unconscious to your own and others suffering. The result, of course, is more suffering.
No one is immune from its effects, and parents and children are especially vulnerable. Although I found Tolle’s description of the Pain Body illuminating and life-changing, I was surprised that he didn’t seem to offer more guidance about how to deal with it. Mostly he focused on the importance of Presence – but how do you develop that?
Let’s consider what the Pain Body really is first – Tolle calls it Unconsciousness. Unconsciousness is an absence of awareness, but I think it’s also an absence of love.
Returning to a conscious state after you’ve been unconscious is a difficult concept to grasp. (Again, how do you do that?) But I think everyone understands what it means to return to love.
You simply have to ask yourself, “What would Love do?” Or even more simply, “How can I act in a loving manner in this moment?”
Well, as I’ve wrestled with the Pain Body I’ve found certain practices that have helped me develop Presence and be willing and able to choose a loving response even in very challenging circumstances. And that is one of the most powerful ways to eradicate the Pain Body.
I’ve also found practices that have been especially helpful in allowing my son to become more aware of his negative feelings and better able to defend his well-being from the Pain Body.
If there’s a common thread joining these practices, it’s that they involve finding creative solutions to meet everyone’s needs. This is one of the most powerful ways to eliminate the Pain Body, and these practices will help you find these solutions in your day-to-day life.
Note that even though I think these practices could help everyone, I’m writing a book with other parents in mind. Parents want the best for their kids, and they want harmonious relationships with them, and are extremely motivated to do the work for them.
The great good news is that not only will children benefit, but by doing this work, parents can transform themselves and their relationships with their partners—and everyone else on the planet—as well. So what are the practices?
First, a little more about the Pain Body: the Pain Body is triggered by emotional pain. The Pain Body is a voracious eater and emotional pain is its food.
When it makes its appearance, it’s a sign that one has become “unconscious” – Tolle says that people overcome by the Pain Body could argue “insanity” because it’s as if they are truly unconscious and completely unaware of themselves and the consequences of their words and actions.
Here’s an example of the Pain Body in action:
You are beginning to get into an argument with someone. You catch yourself saying something unkind and you immediately feel bad. You may even think, “Why am I saying this? It feels bad to say this thing and I know where this will lead. It will lead to more conflict, and I don’t want more conflict.”
In that first moment of feeling bad—at the moment that question arises—there is still enough of you “awake” to have this awareness, but not enough to stop the words.
Unless you take immediate action to choose better-feeling thoughts, or leave the scene, the Pain Body will take over. Not satisfied with only a bite or two, it will create greater and greater unconsciousness so that it can feast on a vast buffet of negative emotions.
Later you will look back at the argument and think, “What possessed me to act that way and say those things?” Well, now you know.
We create our reality through our thinking and our habitual behaviors, like scripts that we play out again and again.
Until we change our habits, the same problems are likely to happen again and again. This is how we stay stuck for a long time.
At the same time, though, these problems can be solved when our desire to feel good and be in harmony with others is stronger than the desire to continue our old ways of thinking and doing (also known as the need to be “right”).
But when we feel that desire, what needs to happen next? And how do you change your thoughts and behaviors?
Here’s the best practice: You deliberately choose better-feeling thoughts. Or, if you can’t choose those thoughts in the moment you’re being negatively triggered, you choose to leave the scene of the trigger.
I’ll go much more in-depth into this practice in future articles, but the point is that you need to practice choosing better-feeling thoughts in all aspects of your life in order to develop facility with the skill.
For example: Stuck in traffic? Change your thoughts from, “I can’t believe I’m stuck in traffic and now I’m going to be late for my meeting! Argh!” to “There’s nothing I can do about this traffic. I can call my client and let her know I’ll be a few minutes late for our appointment. Next time I’ll head out earlier. For now I’ll practice my breathing.” It’s only when you’ve developed facility with choosing better-feeling thoughts that you will be able to use this solution successfully in the presence of the Pain Body.
One last thing: I’m issuing an “Open Call” for all Pain Bodies.
Much of the book I’m writing comes from my own experiences with the Pain Body, and also from the experiences of my clients and friends.
But I want to go even further, and I would LOVE for you to share your experiences with me so that they can also go in my book and help others. So please share in the comments below (or send me a private email if you’d like to stay anonymous).
Or if it would be easier to share your experiences in a call with me, we can set that up too. Just let me know (either leave a comment below or send me an email to that effect) – I really would love to hear from you!